Seasons Greetings to all Pagans

Since re-affirming my secularism (previously atheism), I have fallen out of the habit of acknowledging religious festive occasions, like the one that is almost upon us. It somehow makes me feels like I’m encouraging people to indulge in institutionalized frivolity. Well, I’ve given it a re-think and realized that I was maybe being unkind to all those that still follow pagan beliefs. You see, I’ve rationalized that since those who have pagan beliefs are ostracized and excluded from the established religious community, they are thus, logically in opposition to said community. And though their beliefs are as strange and irrational as those of the establishment, it is in a sense more pure; innocent even.

Without doubt, these pagans with their simple desire to understand the world, laid the foundations for modern religious thinking, which has unfortunately evolved into an ugly monster, unrecognizable from its humble beginnings. So with the onset of the winter solstice, it is time to pay homage to any and all pagans still left in the world. You know who you are; followers of Dionysus, Mithra,  Horus,  Adonis, Attis, Hercules, Krishna, even Zeus.

With the culmination of the winter solstice on the 24Th of December, the Sun will be born again on 25Th December, as it will every year, until it eventually burns out.  Once again, happy Solstice, Natalis Invicti, Saturnalia, Nollagh, Noel, and Baal-fire feast. Enjoy…

Grow Up or Die

It had to happen. I just had to go see Bill Maher’s movie, Religulous. And the chilling words from the closing scene “Grow up or die” is still echoing  in my mind. It’s meant to sound dramatic and that it certainly does, but how true is it?

Overall, I have to admit that I quite enjoyed the film. It’s generally very funny, although this could be attributed to skillful editing for the most part. Maher may have intended the film to come across as a personal journey in disbelief, but it does become quite “preachy” in parts. I should know, because I also indulged in a similar form of extreme Atheism in the past. Did the film strike a chord with the audience? Well, the approximately five other people who were at the screening were apparently stunned into silence, because I could clearly hear only myself laughing out loud, throughout the film. No doubt, they were believers to some degree, if not outright religionists. I’m not sure what to make of their silence, but it could probably mean one of two things. Either they were genuinely shocked at what they saw and were silently contemplating the apparent mirror image of their own behaviour, or they were disgusted into silence which only means that their attitude to atheism will only harden.

Just prior to exclaiming that we must “grow up or die,” Maher made another blatantly extremist comment while standing at the infamous Megiddo site in Israel, “Religion must die so man can live.” Sounds rather clever, but I don’t believe this will go down all that well with the religious community either. Maher also exhorts all atheists to publicly take a stand against religiosity in a manner which can only be described as proselytizing. I’ve exposed this type of behaviour as rather unethical, previously on this blog. I’m now of the opinion that religion should be allowed to run its course, with only a mild form of dissonance from Atheists in the form of teaching and encouraging rational thinking. Better that it dies a natural death while mankind slowly grows up.

Religion, Politics and Culture or Religionists, Politicians and Culture. What’s the Connection?

A heady mix, especially religion and politics. Most people don’t recommend discussing either when in polite company; or in any company for that matter, especially when alcohol is available to lubricate the tongue. But where does culture fit in, if at all? Recently I came across a post on a social networking site which claims that religion and culture are one and the same. So, if culture is related to religion, is it also related to politics; and is politics for that matter related to religion. If you’ll bear with me, I’m going to attempt to uncover any connection, relation or association between religion, politics and culture, through a logical or mathematical approach.

Apart from the observation that nearly everyone has an opinion on religion and politics, and seem to want to assert that opinion, both are connected in other, rather ignominious ways. If you accept that regulation of  policy is derived through politics and that politicians formulate and administer, said policies, then it follows that politics revolves around politicians. What’s that got to do with religion? Well, Comedian, George Carlin commented that “When it comes to bullshit, big-time, major league bullshit, you have to stand in awe of the all-time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims, religion.” In truth, politics (and politicians), like religion, thrives on false promises and exaggerated, even absurd, claims. There’s your first connection, right there.

The second connection between religion and politics may not be that obvious, but it’s real, even if contentious. Religion owes it’s continued existence to it’s ability to enthrall poor, needy and desperate people. A politicians career also depends on his ability to mesmerize the poor, needy and desperate (with, yes you guessed it; false or exaggerated promises). Obviously, education also plays a role, but it goes without saying that generally, the more educated you are, the less likely you are to be scammed by religious and political scumbags (in other words, Evangelists and Right-wing Conservatives).

What’s the connection between religion and culture? Although some people assert that there is not much difference between the two, there actually is. The fallacious association is made when one examines how they both evolved and were adapted in different parts of the world. The reason one may find them indistinguishable from each other, is because religion and culture have merged to such an extent over time. However, when you look at the origins of religion and culture, the distinction is obvious. Religion is associated with base, primal instincts. It evolved out of a need to make sense of the world, in the absence of philosophy and science. Culture is associated with advancing civilization, and a more sophisticated, philosophical, even scientific way of life. It is safe to postulate that culture set in when religion stopped providing all the answers. The problem with religion is that it is a nasty, vicious animal, and won’t lay down and die. To ensure it’s survival, religion has crept so far up the ass of culture, they’ve become locked into an indistinguishable mess.

And what about culture and politics. Is there a connection? Well, all I can really say about this, is that the culture of politics is to perpetuate lies and deceit, and the lust for power at all costs. Enough said…

High School Reunion Exposes My Crappy Memory

I hooked up with three of my high school classmates earlier today. This was supposed to be an annual reunion of the Durban Class of 1983 who had moved up to the City of Gold (Johannesburg to you), but we had not seen seen each other in two years. Our meet last year never materialized, for one reason or the other; actually we kept putting it off because of work and personal commitments and eventually December 2008 arrived…

This year however, we decided to commit to a date (today), and we all actually managed to push our other engagements aside for a few hours. As I entered the Newscafe in Woodmead, I spotted Parthy from the entrance; he hadn’t changed a bit in two years. China was with him; and damn, he still looks like the impish 17-year old from high school. I think I’ll have to also try jogging every morning. While I went off to draw some cash from an ATM, Lawrence arrived. He hadn’t changed much; a closely cropped head of hair revealing a receding hairline. As for me; Parthy commented that I had put on about two more kilos, but the truth is, it’s closer to three. Well, that’s the guys from 83′.

Reunions are sometimes awkward, especially when you haven’t seen each other for several years, but we did not seem to have any problems there. I think it was made easier because we had started the reunion lunch thing about three years ago, and had just had a 20-year class reunion, the year before (if my questionable memory serves me correctly). Parthy actually mentioned that some of the class girls did not show up at that gathering, because they apparently were afraid of how they would be received after 20 years. Am I being sexist or isn’t it always the girls who seem to have issues with acceptance and appearances at reunions? Guys don’t seem to have any qualms about displaying any of their inadequacies at reunions; in fact they revel in reminding each other of them.

During lunch, we reminisced about the “good old days,” and this is where trouble for me, began. No matter how many times we talk about the same incidences, I can never remember the names of the people involved. It happens year after year. My memories of most events are relatively clear, but the names of the participants always escapes me. It has proved rather embarrassing for me in many situations. These old classmates of mine, sitting around the table, could recall events and put names to the participants, like it happened yesterday; while I struggled to visualize them. Is this some sort of disease? Are there anyone else out there who suffer the same handicap?

Happily, I managed to get through most of the interrogations, reasonably unscathed, dignity intact; and look forward to our new mid-year meeting we agreed upon. It’s always great reuniting with old friends, even if you don’t always remember everything they talk about. I think I’ll lay off the booze for a while; might help with the memory.